Saturday, July 19, 2008

L.A. Macaron Matchup Part 1: Paulette

While researching patisseries for my Paris trip, I noticed that macarons were mentioned quite often and so I decided to try some in L.A. in order to have a point of comparison when I visit Laduree, which is where they were created. Up until yesterday (Friday), I had never actually had a French macaron*, despite seeing them in Boule many times. I guess they just didn't look appealing to me, mainly because I thought they were like hard Italian cookies. Thank goodness I found out otherwise at the first place I tried: Paulette.

Paulette is probably the only place in the L.A. area that exclusively serves macarons. Located in Beverly Hills, the space is very sleek in glossy architectural white, and it's very obvious that they are trying to be the Sprinkles of macarons, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Regarding my order, since I was a newbie, I decided to get a range of flavors: Chocolate Coconut, Caribbean Chocolate, Strawberry, Sweet Wedding Almond, New Orleans Praline, and Violet Cassis. I normally don't like fruity cookies, but I thought that there was a possibility that fruit might excel in this presentation style.

I tried the Caribbean Chocolate first to be safe since I didn't want a bad flavor to prejudice me against the macaron forever. It was light in texture, slighty chewy and doughy and very rich tasting. I could have eaten ten of these. That first experience spurred me on to practically inhale three more: Chocolate Coconut, New Orleans Praline and Violet Cassis. I really liked the praline but wished the chocolate coconut was more chocolatey and I have to admit it was a bit hard for me to swallow the cassis. It was like trying to eat black currant preserves straight from the jar -- too strong and jammy a flavor for the delicate texture of the macaron. The Strawberry flavor was a much more subdued fruit flavor and I thought worked much better, though still a little too fruity for my taste. The light rose-colored Sweet Wedding Almond, to me, was the best fit. The macaron is such an elegant pastry and almost belongs to another time, and marzipan is very much an Old World flavor.

While I have nothing to compare these with yet, I'd have to say that I definitely love the whole macaron concept. We'll see how Paulette's execution holds up as I sample more versions both in L.A. and in Paris. This weekend, I'm going to try two other places: Cafe du Village, which imports theirs straight from France, and possibly La Maison Du Pain, which doesn't necessarily have them all the time, but I'll take any excuse to visit there for the first time.

*French macarons are not the coconut clusters that they share a name with. Instead, they are like super fancy cookie sandwiches, consisting of two domed meringue-like halves and a sweet ganache filling, with endless flavor possibilities.

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